"Those were our people today, and that's Holmes tonight" went the sign-off to Paul Holmes' long-running current affairs show. This collection is a screen tribute to the broadcaster's sometimes controversial, always colourful career. As Jason Gunn writes: "From Dennis Conner's walkout to MPs' moans and groans / You lit up all our living rooms, you made our house a Holmes".
The very first Holmes show. In this famous interview, Paul Holmes asks American yachtsman Dennis Conner to apologise for cheating in the America's Cup. Conner storms out, making headlines the next day and giving the new show a ratings boost. The NZ Herald described this interview as "an aggressive, overly-mannered encounter interview rather than a thoughtful interrogation, a ratings-generating event rather than a genuine, tenacious journalistic grilling." It was a style that made Holmes famous.
In this clip the Holmes show celebrates 15 years on air with a montage of the most notable moments on the show to that point. Memorable clips include chatting with Queen Elizabeth; being kissed by Eve van Grafhorst and Kiri Te Kanawa; Jonah Lomu crying; and Dennis Conner's infamous walkout from the opening episode. Famous guests include Ruby Wax, Geoffrey Palmer, Margaret Thatcher, Rachel Hunter, Sir Peter Blake and many others. Holmes ran for a further six months before it ended in November 2004.
In 1993 Paul Holmes travelled to the UK to meet Margaret Thatcher, who had recently authored "clear and vivid" memoir The Downing Street Years. In this hour-long interview, the outspoken former PM talks NZ anti-nuclear policy (bad), Communism (evil), and sanctions in South Africa (pointless). The horrors of Bosnia, she argues, show what happens when consensus politics win out over strong leadership. An iron lady explosion is only narrowly avoided after Holmes probes Thatcher on David Lange’s comment that meeting her was like being addressed by a Nazi orator.
As the third season of hit show Dancing with the Stars began, broadcaster Paul Holmes was an underdog. His dance partner Rebecca Nicholson told Newstalk ZB that Holmes "dances like my dad". By mid-season Holmes knew that he needed to pull something out of the bag to stay in the running. The result: dancing the paso doble to Michael Jackson’s 'Thriller'. Judge Craig Revel Horwood called the routine "appallingly fabulous", as Holmes traded quips with the judges. In 2018 Stuff rated the homage to the King of Pop one of the show's most memorable moments.
This TVNZ documentary captures the early days of NewstalkZB, shortly after Radio New Zealand gambled on relaunching it with an all talk format. Previous breakfast host Merv Smith has taken most of his audience to rival Radio i; his replacement is Paul Holmes. The former king of the Wellington airwaves is soon grappling to make an impact in Auckland. Competition amongst the stations is cutthroat, but Holmes is the focal point here. He’s under pressure and surrounded by a battery of often conflicting opinions. By 1988 he'd hauled the show from ninth to second in the ratings.
Paul Holmes signed off editions of his weeknightly current affairs show with "Those were our people today, and that's Holmes tonight". 'Our people' in this 1997 Christmas special — presented from the roof of TVNZ — include seemingly everyone deemed worthy of news in 1997: from surgery survivors, to stowaways (the notoriously laconic Ingham twins) and All Blacks. Reporter Jim Mora finds politicians bustling for cheery airtime; Tom Scott recalls where he was when Princess Di died; and international celebs (from the Spice Girls to Kylie) send wishes downunder.
This segment from Grunt Machine is a visit to Wellington radio station 2ZM. Announcer Paul Holmes (and later Grunt Machine host — resplendent in afro and moustache) is interviewed after giving away an LP to Carol of Naenae. He isn't a fan of music charts and thinks 2ZM should drop its Top 20 because people just want to hear music now and not the hit parade. Elsewhere there are calls to record shops to check sales and compile the Top 20 that Mr Holmes would rather not have — and a listening session rattles through the new releases in very short order.
This February 1994 interview sees Paul Holmes quiz legendary couple Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, ahead of their concert at the Auckland Town Hall. The duo talk prayer, drugs, scars (June memorably describes Johnny’s face), controversial US ice skater Tonya Harding, and shopping for antiques in New Zealand. The duo then perform their Grammy-winning 1967 version of 'Jackson'. The song was reprised by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, performing as Cash and Carter, in 2005 biopic Walk the Line: "We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout."
In this May 2006 interview, Paul Holmes interviews actor Russell Crowe for Holmes' new Prime TV show. After 25 minutes Russell is joined by his cousin, cricket legend Martin Crowe. Free from PR pressures to promote a particular film, Russell is relaxed and reflective. He talks organic farming, Elvis Costello and fatherhood, the All Blacks and Richard Harris, and growing up as “Martin Crowe’s cousin”. Holmes brings up Martin’s famous innings of 299, and the trio discuss baseball, throwing phones, Romper Stomper, Russell's Rabbitohs league club and Martin’s Gladiator role.
After a young woman (Denise Maunder) falls pregnant, she decides to go against the tide of advice from her family and unsympathetic welfare authorities by keeping her baby. Misery and hardship ensues. Director Paul Maunder brought kitchen sink drama to NZ television with this controversial National Film Unit production. The story can claim to have effected social change, stirring up public debate about the DPB for single mothers. Keep an eye out for a young Paul Holmes as a wannabe lothario. Maunder writes about making it in this piece. Costa Botes writes about it here.
On 12 October 1997 legendary country singer John Denver was tragically killed in a plane crash. Friend and fan Glen Campbell was touring New Zealand at the time, and he stopped by TVNZ's Auckland Network Centre for an interview with Paul Holmes, and a tribute performance in the atrium, with TVNZ staff gathering to watch. Campbell discusses his friend’s love of flying, desire to go into space, and his happiness in his final years. He covers Denver classic 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' and concludes the interview with a rendition of his own hit, 'Rhinestone Cowboy'.
Veteran broadcaster Paul Holmes brings his trademark stream of introspection and acerbic wit to the ancient cultures of Yemen in the Middle East. Holmes gets a lot of mileage from the country’s many curiosities: soldiers on patrol holding hands; the high volume manner of daily conversation and the ubiquitous Khat, a chewing plant known for its amphetamine-like effects. This excerpt sees him changing into an outfit that has more in common with the locals, and suddenly feeling much more welcome than before.
New Zealand television's first sitcom, Buck House centred on the antics of a group of university students sharing a flat in Wellington. In this sixth episode of the first series, Reg — played by a fast-talking, afro-headed Paul Holmes — gets embroiled in his flatmate Joe's latest illicit moneymaking scheme. 'Escorts Unlimited Ltd', as Joe (Tony Barry) tries to explain, is a surefire winner. That is, until Buck House's other flattie, the left-leaning Jo (Jacqui Dunn) invites a member of the local constabulary home for a cup of tea. The late night comedy was considered edgy when it debuted in 1974.
In this clip Holmes interviews Sir Edmund Hillary, a hero and legend to many New Zealanders. Sir Ed has just been awarded the Humanitarian of the Year Award by the International Variety Club. This is in recognition for the work Sir Ed has done for the people of Nepal. Sir Ed is celebrating at a function in the TVNZ atrium and is interviewed in a live cross from the studio. This award put Sir Ed alongside Winston Churchill, Helen Keller and Sammy Davis Jr, former recipients of this award.
NFU drama Men and Super Men is a barbed chronicle of a workplace where harmony is a distant dream. Intended as a how-not-to guide for ‘management bodies’, the film sees patronising factory supervisor Ferguson (actor Eddie Wright in fine form) trying to increase productivity by constantly changing systems. Meanwhile a trio on the factory floor (Paul Holmes, Peter McCauley and Close to Home’s Stephen Tozer) react with bullying and barely suppressed defiance. It was an open secret when the film was made that some of the characters were inspired by NFU staff.
Presented by Paul Holmes, this documentary follows the team of 13 Kiwi competitors at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympics. Swimmer Jenny Newstead won four gold medals and broke world records, but for this small team the focus was on personal bests as they headed into a more professional era. There's triumph and disappointment, mixed with the message that these were elite athletes competing strongly against the rest of the world. The lessons learned in Barcelona would lead to a much stronger showing four years later in Atlanta.
The golden age of rock is recaptured in a studio mock-up of the Wellington Rock 'n' Roll Revival Club. Hosted by Paul Holmes (under the name Wonderful Wally Watson), the show features Tom Sharplin and his band. Dalvanius Prime also puts in an appearance, delivering a wonderful version of 'The Great Pretender'. The show mixes studio and location sequences, as it delivers hits made famous by the likes of 50s legends Bill Haley and Chuck Berry. Actors Marshall Napier and Brian Sergent are on hand to play a couple of bodgies, referencing the milk-bar cowboys of the era.
Paul Holmes quizzes legendary naturalist Sir David Attenborough in this April 1991 studio interview. Attenborough is downunder to promote his BBC series Trials of Life. Attenborough talks about the state of natural history TV making and changes in camera technology (musing that the old days were less efficient, but “more fun”), and responds to clips of killer whales surging on to a beach chasing sea lions, and chimpanzees teaming up to hunt. Holmes asks Sir David if he’s ever been “horrified” by nature, if animals are noble, and whether this is his last big series.
Fronted by Paul Holmes, this doco looks at the New Zealand Paralympic team at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. It was the most successful team to date with a haul of nine gold medals, six silver and four bronze (and 44 personal bests). Triumph focuses on several disabled Kiwi athletes, from their arrival in the States to victory on the track, in the pool and on the field. The first Paralympics were held in Rome in 1960 with just 400 competitors. In Atlanta 3,500 athletes competed, 35 of them kiwis. Triumph broke ground screening in a primetime slot on TV One.
In an emotional Today Live interview from June 2001, Susan Wood talks to pioneering newsreader Angela D’Audney about her diagnosis with a brain tumour four weeks earlier, resulting surgery and the prospect of radiotherapy. D'Audney talks about the highs and lows of her considerable career, and attributes her success as much to tenacity as talent. Paul Holmes reminisces and offers support, there’s archive footage of her from AKTV-2 in 1968; and she is given the final word in what will be her last television appearance. Angela D’Audney died on 6 February 2002.
This 1991 Holmes interview opens with Glen Campbell performing 'Wichita Lineman', the song which Mojo and Blender rated as among the finest of the 20th century. When Campbell recorded it in 1968, he was busy transforming from session musician — he played on everything from 'Good Vibrations' to 'Strangers in the Night" — to pop/country star. Campbell spends most of the interview playing and praising the writer whose songs made him famous: Jimmy Webb ('Galveston'). Asked about past drug use, Campbell laughs, before maintaining he is now living cleanly.
This episode of the Loose Enz series features small town intrigue in Hawkes Bay. Prickly, violin playing, ex-POW Austin (Derek Hardwick) refuses to retire despite handing over the farm to son Wesley (Goodbye Pork Pie director Geoff Murphy) — and the impending sale of the neighbouring property (to Japanese buyers) puts him on the warpath one boozy night at the local. Rural land politics and identities are nicely observed, the farmers’ band is delightfully chaotic (with Paul Holmes as a sax-playing fencer), and the Land Rover stuck in reverse is worthy of Fred Dagg.
In this short report for a 1990 edition of Holmes, Dylan Taite rocks back the clock to talk to New Zealand music pioneer Johnny Cooper. John Dix’s recently published history of NZ rock’n’roll Stranded in Paradise had resurrected interest in Cooper, the Wairoa-spawned singer who gained notice with a Bill Haley cover, then gave NZ its first homegrown rock’n’roll song with his tale of a Whanganui pie cart, 'Pie Cart Rock'n'Roll'. Aptly, Taite interviews Cooper at a Queen St cart where Cooper unslings his guitar once more: “Let’s rock and roll around the old pie cart!”
One of three special Edmund Hillary in Nepal segments that screened on Holmes in 1991, this piece looks into some of the schools and hospitals Hillary helped establish in Himalayan villages. Hillary and Lady June Hillary join the 30th anniversary celebrations of Khumjung School, one of the earliest projects instigated by the Himalayan Trust. Reporter Mark Sainsbury visits the school shed first built by Edmund and Rex Hillary in 1961; Sir Ed talks about his satisfaction in responding to local's requests, and the pressure to raise funds as he gets older.
In this excerpt from TVNZ Heartland’s look back at Kiwi TV history, presenter Andrew Shaw sits down with veteran broadcaster Paul Holmes to discuss his career. The 2010 korero begins with Holmes' comment that he initially saw broadcasting as a platform to pursue his acting aspirations. Holmes then ranges across tales of radio DJing and ratings wars; the challenges of his high profile transition to TV current affairs, and 15 years hosting his primetime show; and jumping ship to Prime, then returning to TVNZ to work on Q+A and Dancing with the Stars.
In this 1989 Holmes excerpt, visiting Brit jazz musicians Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball meet Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, a self-described “mediocre trumpeter”. The trio play ‘Tin Roof Blues’ in the PM’s office, before a circuit of the Beehive balcony. Unlike Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign-defining saxophone slot on The Arsenio Hall Show, the Kiwi leader’s jazzy side earned more sniggers than kudos — although the former law professor recalled the jam fondly in his memoir as one of the lighter moments of his Prime Ministerial tenure: “I loved it”.
This excerpt from Holmes features a rare interview with author Janet Frame, filmed in 2000 to mark the release of Michael King's Frame biography, Wrestling with the Angel. Reporter John Sellwood visited Frame at her Dunedin home, along with King, who is also interviewed, and provides some valuable perspective on Frame's writing. Sellwood charmed Frame by playing the bagpipes, which reminded her of her father, but she is still a reluctant interviewee, who prefers to chat about lighter topics than reflect on her distinguished literary career.
In this interview publicising 1996 comedy The Birdcage, Robin Williams turns his humour settings to a surprisingly low level. Quizzed on matters political by Holmes reporter Ewart Barnsley, Williams argues that politically correct people can display the “same kind of repressive tendencies” as others, and admits that the portrait of homosexual parents in the Mike Nichols-directed comedy could be offensive to both gays and straights. But, he adds, the majority of viewers "go and laugh their ass off and find some common ground and humanity in it”.
Journalist Mark Sainsbury accompanies Sir Edmund Hillary on a "testimonial trek" to Nepal. This segment was the first of three that screened on Holmes in April 1991. Sir Ed travels to Tenboche Monastery, meets son Peter and fellow climber George Lowe, recalls his famous climb and reconnects with the sherpas who call him Barrah Sahib: the Big Man. En route Sir Ed gets altitude sickness and needs oxygen. He comments on the risks of returning to Everest: "I have the alternative of lolling on a sun-drenched beach [...] something I find exceptionally boring".
'Our people' at Holmes' 1997 Christmas party included tearaway teenage twins Sarah and Joanne Ingham. Earlier that year the sisters had stowed away on a Malaysian container ship after Sarah had fallen for a sailor. The 18-year-olds made global headlines when they jumped overboard off the Queensland coast, supposedly swam through shark and croc-infested waters and spent two weeks in the bush, before being found and deported back to Nelson. As Holmes tries to elicit soundbites the notorious lasses display the laconic style that made them Kiwi folk heroes.
In May 1995, 22-year old David Bain was convicted of murdering five members of his family with a rifle in their Dunedin home. Bain would spend over a decade in prison before being acquitted on all charges. National debate around the 1995 verdict was galvanised by the release of two conflicting books on the case — Joe Karam’s David and Goliath and James McNeish’s The Mask of Sanity. The former All Black and the writer go head-to-head in this often testy Holmes debate from 1997. Ten years later, the Privy Council quashed Bain’s 1995 conviction; he was acquitted in a 2009 retrial.
In the last of three Holmes pieces made on a 1991 trip to Nepal alongside Sir Edmund Hillary, reporter Mark Sainsbury looks into the lives of the Sherpas. Angrita Sherpa talks about how his people have been portering for Western climbers since at least the 1950s, and his concerns that they preserve their culture and Buddhist religion. He reflects on their unique connection with Sir Ed and their apprehension as he ages. Sir Ed responds typically "I have quite a lot of motivation, but I don't regard myself as a hero at all — I'm petrified most of the time".